Monday, July 30, 2007
Countless American lives literally revolve around sports. Throughout sporting fandom, calendars are marked in anticipation of the new year. Their acquaintance of old memories is never forgotten, but replaced by new moments to treasure-or lament-with the annual drop of not a ball, but a puck. Or a kickoff, a tipoff, or a first pitch. Many Americans new year doesn’t begin with Dick Clark, but with Dick Vitale. Amidst the streets of several metropolitan areas seasonal changes are revealed by hats and jerseys as if they were leaves or grass.
Me? I’m practically in hibernation until I hear Marv Albert. This is a particularly strange time of year for me as a sports fan. Because lately, this time of year reminds me of what kind of sports fan I really am. July is summer movie season. It’s concert season, six foot bird watching season, the flu season playoffs, practically anything but baseball season. Unless I’m there, it just bores the shit outta me. And I won’t go just anywhere either.
I've spent the past decade of my life in and out of Minnesota, which has a very respectable baseball team. The Twins don't exactly have deep pockets, but they remain competitive through cultivating one of the leagues most distinguished farm systems. Justin Morneau, Joe Mauer, Tori Hunter and Johan Santana are all homegrown talent and unsurpassable representatives of their respective positions. That's the MVP, the batting champion, the "nightly web gem" and only the fifth unanimous Cy Young winner, all within the last ten years. But the Twins bore the shit outta me. They play in a garage.
I spent my childhood in Chicago with two miserable baseball teams and never questioned my allegiances. I was a Cubs fan. I loved everything about the Cubs. The roster, the uniforms, and even then I recognized and appreciated the harmless fatalism that one could enjoy as a Cubs fan. "Well, we lost. Again. But that sure was fun!" I became obsessive about baseball. I had drawers, shoeboxes, bookcases and closets full of baseball cards. I'd watch alot of the games that I couldn't go to on TV, and in eigth grade I joined the JV baseball team. That's when I realized I didn't know shit about baseball and why I really loved the Cubs. They play in Wrigley Field.
I had never stood in front of a real competitive fastball. I never knew any of the intricacies that comprised the game. I just knew who was good and could only provide superficial reasons why they were good. I didn't even like baseball cards that much, I just liked the idea of how much money they were worth. I wasn't a baseball fan, I was just a Cubs fan. I was barely a Cubs fan, I was just a fan of Cubs baseball. I still am.
Whenever I make it back home I try to catch a game. The brick, ivy, and intimate residential neighborhood setting make Clark & Addison one of America's best places to spend a summer afternoon. But it's the retro scoreboard, the bleacher bums, and the seventh inning stretch that make it a unique sporting experience and a reminder of why baseball is still Chicago's pastime. Sitting along Wrigley's third base line on a hot day, with a cold brew, good friends and plenty of ladies are fond memories. Not just of mine, but countless others I've never met-many of a day in which I wasn't even alive. Despite a hundred years of futility, we are bound not by a woeful disdain, but by an appreciation of time well spent. See if you can generate that kind of warmth from four generations of Phillies fans.
However that leisurely pace doesn't make captivating television. I haven't watched an entire game in four years. It bores the shit outta me. The players stand still more than they move and the games last forever. The endless procession of foul balls, pickoff attempts, mound visits and pitching substitutions could cure even the most hopeless of insomiacs. Honestly, how many videos have we seen of adults slumped over and drooling at the ballpark? So I wouldn't stand a chance against the narcoleptic influence of midsummer baseball within the friendly confines of my living room. I'd rather rent a movie.